Chris Fields had been, as he said, “getting his butt handed to him” in a lot of recent tournaments, so he had been trying to convince his wife that he needed more time on the water practicing (aka…fishing). Last weekend, in the first ever Crappie Masters Individual National Championship held on the Ouachita River out of Monroe/West Monroe, he may have messed up that argument.
Fields, you see, won the tournament crown and the $12,500 first place check that came with it. But don’t despair, that may give him yet another good argument for getting some more time in fishing, I mean “practicing” so he can win some more checks like that.
The event consisted of three days of fishing with only the top 12 anglers competing in the finals on Saturday. The event was a one pole, artificial bait only tournament and was right in the middle of several other major tour events in the region. And the river was nasty — high and changing every day. So the attendance wasn’t what Crappie Masters hoped for, but Fields didn’t care if he beat 30 or 300 contestants. The first place check was the same.
Fields landed three five-fish limits weighing 27.02 pounds. He also had big crappie with a 2.21 pound slab. Matthew Rogers of Missouri was second with 25.91. Ruston’s Trey Underwood was fourth with 25.38 in the event.
“It was tough out there during the tournament,” Fields told the crowd at Saturday’s weigh-in. “When I finally figured out where they were, it got a little bit easier. Pre-fishing was tough. I didn’t think anybody would catch over 21 pounds, but there were better fish caught than I thought there would be.”
Fields had one big area he knew there were fish in, but he had to manage the area to make sure he didn’t catch too many one of the three days and then run out of fish.
“Saturday was fun,” he said. “It didn’t matter any more because I didn’t have to manage fish. I didn’t have to worry about leaving enough for tomorrow. I just went fishing.”
When Fields put his fifth good fish in the livewell about 10 a.m., though, he noticed he had a problem. One of his bigger fish was trying to die on him. So he made the decision to take what he had and weigh in early. It paid off. It’s crazy. I wouldn’t have ever thought that I would have won it. I told my wife I needed to fish more to compete. My wife may want me to fish more now.”
The event was sponsored by the Monroe/West Monroe Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Runner-up Matthew Rogers, one of the hottest young crappie anglers on the pro fishing circuits, said he loved the river, but it was always tough on him. He was disappointed that more people didn’t show up for the event because he thought it was a great format. Most pro crappie tournaments are team events and partners are pretty well set. Apparently, most of the big name teams didn’t want to fish against each other.
“A lot of people had been talking about wanting this format for an individual event, but they aren’t here,” the 22-year old Rogers said.”I had a blast and congratulations to those who showed up and fished. I’ve got a lot of respect for you.”
Rogers fished with small hair jigs and also used a small Eurotackle swim bait. He was targeting mostly big white crappie, but also caught quite a few black crappie up in the laydowns.